Circa 1650, from Dutch thee, from Min Nan 茶 (Amoy dialect), from Old Chinese, ultimately from Proto-Sino-Tibetan *s-la ("leaf, tea").
Introduced to English and other Western European languages by the Dutch East India Company, who sourced their tea in Amoy; compare Malay teh along the same trade route. chai, and cha (and, distantly, lahpet), from same Proto-Sino-Tibetan root; see discussion of cognates.
The word for “tea” in many languages is of Sinitic origin (due to China being the origin of the plant), and thus there are many cognates; see translations. These are from one of two proximate sources, reflected in the phonological shape: forms with a stop (e.g. ) are derived from Min Nan tê, while forms with a fricative (e.g. ) are derived from other Sinitic languages, like Mandarin chá or Cantonese caa4 (all written as ). Different languages borrowed one or the other form (specific language and point in time varied), reflecting trade ties, generally Min Nan tê if by ocean trade from Fujian, Cantonese caa4 if by ocean trade from Guangdong, or northern Chinese chá if by overland trade or by ocean trade from India.
Thus Western and Northern European languages borrowed tê (with the exception of Portuguese, which uses chá; despite being by ocean trade, their source was in Macao, not Amoy), while chá borrowings are used over a very large geographical area of Eurasia and Africa: Southern and Eastern Europe, and on through Turkish, Arabic, North and East Africa, Persian, Central Asian, and Indic languages. In Europe the tê/chá line is Italian/Slovene, Hungarian/Romanian, German/Czech, Polish/Ukrainian, Baltics/Russian, Finnish/Karelian, Northern Sami/Inari Sami. tê was also borrowed in European trade stops in Southern India and coastal Africa, though chá borrowings are otherwise more prevalent in these regions, via Arabic or Indic, due to earlier trade. The situation in Southeast Asia is complex due to multiple influences, and some languages borrowed both forms, such as Malay teh and ca.
From Chinese 茶.
Modern English dictionary
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